Category Archives: joy

An Attitude of Gratitude

It’s a tough time of year for me come fall. The sun doesn’t shine as long, the leaves fall from the trees after a magnificent burst of color as they dance toward death before winter, and the skies are nowhere near as bright in the middle of October as they are at the height of July. Toss anything else in that mix and I start digging a rabbit hole to crawl into until Spring.

Gratitude JarThis year, I decided to do my very best to keep out of that rabbit hole. In addition to my SAD Lamp, I created a Gratitude Jar. I don’t remember where I first saw the idea (probably Pinterest), but it struck me as something easy I could do that would help all of us focus on the positive instead of wallowing in the depths of The Nothing that surrounds us like a parasite through the fall and winter months.

I posted a picture of my Gratitude Jar on Facebook and a friend immediately asked me how I did it. I promised her a blog post about it, complete with printables. So here we are!

Step 1: Buy a jar. Or use one you have at home. I found a really fantastic one at the local Goodwill for less than $2.00. You’ll want a smaller jar or vase to hold the strips you’ll print out for writing just what it is you’re grateful for every day.

Step 2: Create a label. I used Microsoft Word. Chose a Gift Certificate Template and adjusted it to my needs. I replaced the wording with a description of what to do as well as a couple of inspirational quotes related to gratitude. I used this list at Inc for quotes. (40 really great ones!) Based on your jar size, you may need a different label. Feel free to play around in Word and create your own. The one I made fit my jar perfectly.

Step 3: Cut out the label. Using a simple glue stick (borrowed from a school age child), glue said label onto jar. Place face down on a hard surface (I had to put it in the middle of our dining room table so the cat wouldn’t bat it off onto the ground).

Step 4: Again, using Word, I created a simple one column table the length of the page, and simple copied and pasted the words “I’m grateful for” in each row, leaving plenty of space to write a few things. Print, and cut out. I used a paper cutter but you could use scissors. The nice thing about doing it this way is that instead of buying a pad of paper, you can just print and refill as needed.

Gratitude Jar LocationStep 5: Set up the Gratitude Jar in a place that makes it easy to use. A common area but not in the way of anything. As you see, I have the Gratitude Jar on one side, and the little vase with the strips on the other side of a gorgeous vase that sits on our game cabinet in our dining room. So far, it works well. (We’re on day 4, I think.)

And that’s it. Easy peasy. While I am having to stretch to think of something for which I am grateful every day, it’s a good habit to have. Positive thinking matters.

And now, for the printables:

Gratitude Jar Labels

Gratitude Strips

Go forth and be filled with gratitude! Oh, and you’ll notice that there are TWO Gratitude Jar Labels on the printable. Make one for a friend and share the gratitude!

All the Little Ways

Her prince rode up on a white horse, swept her up behind him, and they rode off into the sunset as her hair flowed behind her, the wind toying with it as the horse rushed headlong into the distance.

Romance, right?

Here’s the thing with romance: it’s not all grand gestures. Romance hides in the most common places and if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it altogether.

Take J & me for instance.

We have this one spoon that’s different than all the other spoons in the drawer. It’s not curved at the top, and is wider and a little flatter than all the other spoons. We both love this spoon for some reason. I like that it seems to deliver food in a more oh, I don’t know, pleasing manner?

So if we ask the other one to bring us some ice cream or yogurt, or anything else one eats with a spoon, we will often put this spoon in said food item. No words are said as we hand the other person the bowl and spoon. But when we notice, it’s always an awwwwww moment and we swoon. For us, that spoon is another way of saying “I love you, I cherish you, even in the smallest of ways.”

Love isn’t big acknowledgements.

It’s the tiny nods in the midst of the chaos of every day living.

Those are the things I live for and the things I am grateful to receive and even more excited to give.

What tiny nods in the midst of the chaos of every day living do you give your loved one?

Guest Post: On Meeting An Angel

PP Blogathon BlingToday’s post in celebration of Katherine Stone is brought to you by Deborah Forhan Rimmler, a member of the board of Postpartum Progress. There’s no intro to do it justice so I’ll just let you read.

I’m always curious about where God might pop up.  You see, I’m the kind of girl who finds a connection to the Divine in random places—a quiet snuggle with my boys, when my husband loves me even when I’m being a jerk, a long bike ride, my dear aunt’s funeral.  You get the point.

Five years ago I was struck with horrible postpartum OCD, the soul stealing kind where you have visions of hurting your own baby.  Even then, I was still lucky.  I had a swanky doula, got a great psychiatrist and slowly got better.  Still, there was this huge gaping hole in my heart that only I knew was there.  I swear you could see all the way to infinity and back that hole was so big.  I was sure I would never really be happy again or be joyful as mother because this terrible experience haunted me.  I put on brave face. I cared for and played with my baby.  I prayed, tried to meditate, did yoga, and watched chick flicks. I did all my happy things.  Only it was still there.  That big gaping hole of fear and sadness over this experience.

Then I met an angel—the working class kind, which in my opinion is the very best type.  You see, she is one of us.  A human with no special wings or privity with God’s plans for the universe.  She was just a very brave mother who had dared to share her story with the world about how she, too, had these intrusive thoughts about hurting her baby boy.  And I mean the whole world—she put in on a blog!  She just put it out there in a matter-of-fact way about how postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD and psychosis are simply treatable diseases.  And she got other women to share their stories on her blog.  And she gave up her lucrative marketing career, at a significant financial cost to her family, to build this blog day after day.  For. Ten. Years.

Every story was just as beautiful and brave as the one before.  And in these stories there was a divine truth that healed my draining soul.  We women are not alone, and it is not our fault we got sick.  I even felt God’s love for me, my sick brain, and all the other suffering mothers past and present in the community of these stories.  And the gaping hole in my heart and soul got plugged with the honesty and bravery of these women sharing their truth.  And one day I started to feel happy again.  Full of hope for my life as a mother.

Thank you, Katherine Stone, for being that angel.  Day after day you shine the light of goodness and grace on the dark side of motherhood helping to piece our broken hearts back together.  And when that light sparks a sad, tired soul and starts to help it heal, you give the gift that only a true angel can give:  Hope.

Bless you my darling friend and congratulations on the Ten Year Anniversary of Postpartum Progress!

Rimmler Family 09 051Deborah is a postpartum OCD survivor and on the board of Postpartum Progress, Inc.  She is a corporate attorney and lives with her husband and two sons in Western Massachusetts.

Dear Mom,

From the very beginning, you knew I would do things my own way. You encouraged that spirit in me – raised me with boundaries and manners but somehow also managed to foster a free and wild spirit without taming it.

You insisted on open communication. Talk no matter what, even when you don’t want to. I remember doing just that with you, for hours, sitting on your bed and talking about everything yet nothing at all instead of napping.

You held me as I wept when your parents passed away, soothing me and reminding me to focus on the silly and ridiculous. But always, always encouraging emotion and never shaming me for letting them out.

You gave me books. Lots of books. Lots and lots and lots of books. Required we read them before we saw movies. I buried myself in those books and loved every second of them. They opened my eyes to so many worlds, so many words, to the ups and downs, and a multitude of emotions.

You chased me around the house with a naked, dead chicken, squawking as you ran toward me while I ran away, shrieking. Or the time I sprayed you with the kitchen sprayer and got it all over the kitchen. Or the times we worked ourselves into hilarious giggles because we were simply having inane conversations. I loved the laughter you brought into my life and the devious sense of humour I culled from you. (Although I know that we take it WAY too far for you sometimes but you, dear mother, are the root of my fabulous sense of humour – that is truth!)

And now, back to seriousness….

Your faith is strong. I see the quiet peace it has brought you even when you have felt like falling apart. I know it’s what keeps you going and it’s that quiet strength given to you by God which makes you the center of the family.

It’s your mode of motherhood – the quiet strength, the hilarious insanity, and the compassion which has so greatly influenced my own mode of motherhood.

You’re still there for me when I need you. Always ready to listen and offer your opinion (even though you know I’m gonna do my own thing). You are more than my mother, you’re my here for putting up with me and the boys. I don’t know how you managed to get through raising all of us and stay as sane as you …wait… that may explain a lot! 😉

I love you more than I can ever possibly express, Mom. And today, this Mother’s Day, I am sending a great big hug down your way along with a huge thank you for your role in shaping me into the woman I am today – for being my fearless cheerleader when I thought I was completely lost – and for being there for me even when you didn’t necessarily agree with what I was doing. I am beyond grateful for everything you have done for me and can’t imagine life without you.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Love,

Me

The Magic of Memories

We walked to school as children. Alone. Granted, we were usually in groups with other kids. Buddy system, safety in numbers, and all those other lovely cliches. There were crossing guards to stop traffic on the main busy road we had to cross on our way to the local elementary school. Then we went down a slight hill, under a bridge, and across a parking lot to the school and into class.

I remember the way the bridge vibrated as cars zoomed across it while we walked under it. How the cars zipping by filled the open cavern with an echo of their engines as they revved in anticipation of the slight hill on the other side. The musty scent of the dank and dark slopes of cement and the flapping wings of the pigeons living there as they flew back and forth in the midst of our chaotic humanity.

There’s one particular walk I remember, it wasn’t to school, it was home from school. I was walking with a friend of mine, Tasha, when all of the sudden, my nose started to run. Tasha and I were talking, looking down and kicking the random rocks collected along the dingy sidewalk. She looked at me, and as I looked at her, I could tell something was wrong.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. She pointed at her nose then at me. I wiped, and it was bright red. Just on the other side of the bridge, as the hill sloped up, there was a mobile home community. Tasha ran up to one of the mobile homes and banged on the door. An older woman answered and listened to Tasha’s pleas for a napkin, a tissue, anything for my poor nose.

The woman disappeared inside and brought a handful of tissues out, instructing me to hold them to my nose and tip my head back. (I always hated that when I was a kid – tipping my head back – I am so glad we don’t have to do that anymore). We stood there for a bit until my nose stopped gushing. I think it was early spring – I remember purple irises in her little patch of dirt in front of her mobile home. (Of course, this may be a crossed memory – I have a thing for purple irises).

Once my nosebleed subsided to less than gushing, we went on our way and continued to our respective houses. Tasha turned left, I turned right.

It’s funny what memories stick with us from our childhood when we sit and think about it, isn’t it? Sometimes they’re just flashes – a scent, a colour, a taste, a texture – other times, they are very vivid and we fully remember ever exquisite detail. As we grow older, we remember more but we also tend to remember less because we are more focused on surviving life instead of living it and seeing it through the eyes of a child.

I have written about this recently but it is such an important component to who I am that I write about it often.

Looking back over my life, I have been happiest when I just let myself be in the moment instead of focusing on getting everything right or capturing it at just the proper angle to post on Instagram or Twitter. Sure, there are some things I do share but there are others that happen far too fleetingly or that I know I could never accurately portray so I take a snapshot for my soul and hold it there instead.

Last week, for instance, as I was driving, a robin paced my car through a subdivision. I slowed down, it slowed down, flying right at the height of my head on the side of the road. He diverted right before I arrived at my designation. Fleeting things like that inspire awe in me. As I sat there, at my destination, a bald eagle soared overhead as well.

Here’s the thing with allowing yourself to enjoy the little things life has to offer. Are you ready? It’s a secret, a really sneaky one. *looks around dramatically then whispers loudly:

You don’t have to make special plans to enjoy it.

All you have to do is make the decision to find the joy in whatever it is that you’re doing at the moment. Notice the feel of the pen in your hands. Admire the way it writes on the paper. Look up at the sky. Find the birds soaring there and follow them until you can’t any more. Trace the clouds with your eyes and turn them into shapes. (I saw a cloud which looked like an AT-AT the other day!) This is why I still read books made of dead trees. Why I drink tea. There’s ritual and romance in both activities. Something phenomenal about holding a book in your hands, the weight of the knowledge sinking into your hands, which makes me swoon. I own a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass which is more than 100 years old. It’s not a rare copy, but it is an old copy, first printing. Some of the pages weren’t cut properly which means those who owned it previously never read the words within. For me, that’s absolutely mesmerizing. The same with tea – it is an ancient tradition steeped in cultures across the world. It’s not just tea….it’s a living, breathing thing beating with the hearts of those who enjoyed it well before me.

Get excited about things you love. For instance – F1 starts this week and I cannot WAIT. I may even stay up to watch it even though it’s in Australia and this means my sleep will be all sorts of screwed up. But.. but.. F1!!!

With the onset of F1, there’s another milestone in the year just around the bend.

Spring is soon. According to the calendar, it will be here in eleven days. I’ve lived long enough to know that just because the calendar says it’s spring doesn’t mean the weather will listen. This much I do know right now:

  • There’s visible grass
  • The sky has been blue more than it’s been grey the past week
  • There’s visible grass
  • I didn’t need a jacket yesterday or today.
  • We can almost see our entire deck
  • Trees are sprouting buds holding the promise of new leaves and SPRING.

I cannot wait for the world to explode in colour and warmth. To open the windows and turn off the heat.. oh, wait.. we did that yesterday afternoon until the sun went away. I cannot wait to have the windows open for an entire day even if it does make me sneeze and cry.

Life. It is a cycle, one which whirs forward with or without us. Our cycle of life is what we manage to make of it. Does that mean I want to go back to being a little girl who bravely walked to school, taking the time to notice the flapping wings of pigeons under the bridge?

No.

What it means is I don’t ever want to lose that little girl’s ability to turn the most benign thing into the most magical thing ever.

Today’s magic was noticing the landscape reappear as the snow pack is slowly melting.

What was your magic today?

Choosing Happy

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. 

~Eleanor Roosevelt~

Happiness is a direction, not a place.

~Sydney J. Harris~

Think about those quotes for a few minutes, letting their truth sink deep into your psyche. Sip your coffee, tea, juice, or water, and let it wash over you.

What do they say to you? How do they feel in your heart?

It is difficult to remember, in the depth of depression, that happiness is not a goal nor is it a place. It is instead, a by-product of life and more in the journey than in the destination. All too often, we focus on reaching a final ‘state’ and forget that our ‘states’ are instead fluid and are pulled with the ebb and flow of life.

I’ve written before about whether happiness is a choice. I did not believe happiness was a choice until I finally chose it. You see, happiness does not equal a constant cheerful demeanor. Happiness doesn’t mean everything is giggles and confetti.

Happiness, to me, is flowing with what life throws at you. It is knowing what to do when things turn negative, it is taking care of yourself in the midst of the whirlwind. Happiness is realizing that life happens and the majority of it is how you choose to react to it.

Let’s take, for example, a young woman in a grocery store. She’s in a rush to grab a few last minute items to cook dinner for her boyfriend. She runs around the store, grabbing the items, and goes to the front. All the self-checkout lanes are taken and she is left with choosing between two open registers with cashiers. One has a young mother with three children and a very full cart while the other one has an elderly woman with not much in her cart. The young woman chooses the aisle with the elderly woman. But the elderly woman is very chatty with the cashier and very slow with her wallet. She also decides she doesn’t want to purchase a few of the limited items in her cart so the young woman has to wait for a manager to come over and do a return. By this time, there’s someone in line behind her so she’s stuck and can’t go anywhere.

This young woman would have every right to be frustrated and angry. Instead, she takes a deep breath and enjoys the few moments of peace this has granted her in between her very busy job and the busy rush of cooking ahead of her. She looks around the store and notices the colours of balloons floating above displays for an upcoming holiday, she listens to the children in the aisle next to her giggle and play with each other as their mother manages getting all the groceries on the conveyer belt.

We have a choice in the way we respond to external stimuli. One of the most popular things I hear people with disabilities or mental health challenges say is that they may have x,y, or z, but x,y, or z doesn’t have them. It truly is the best way to view things because when x,y, or z doesn’t have you, it doesn’t have power over your mind which means you know how to handle it.

And as we children of the 80’s remember, knowing is half the battle.

The Gift of the Sun

When was the last time you looked up into the sky as if you were a young child, in awe of nature, believing everything up there was pure magic?

I do it at least twice a day. Sunrise and sunset.

Throughout the rest of the day, sometimes a cloud pattern or group of birds will catch my attention but it is the sunrise and sunset which capture my soul.

This morning, I awoke to a blushing sky, pale pink expanding across a barely lit atmosphere as the sun caressed the wisps of clouds drifting through the atmosphere just beyond the trees at the edge of the field across the road. Pale pink gave way to a golden glow, setting the naked trees afire, eventually dancing across the icy snow at their feet.

A lone black bird soared to one of the larger trees, settling in the highest branch, clinging hold as the wind waved him to and fro. Traffic echoed just below, an invasion of the solitude of the dawn cascading across the sky.

Most of the morning was filled with blue, then this afternoon, the clouds expanded, obfuscating the joy promised us by the bright blue sky in the midst of a dreary winter. But the evening sky apologized for this infraction, providing a spectacular range of colours as the sun nestled into the other side of the world.

Corals, reds, purples, blues, greys, they all mingled together just below the houses at the edge of the field, the sort of sunset which one can only witness with eyes and not capture on film.

Although I have bemoaned the existence of a sub-zero winter and being buried in far too many inches of snow, it has brought some of the most phenomenal sunrises and sunsets I have ever witnessed, including those I saw as a young child growing up near the beach.

Witnessing a sunrise and a sunset is a gift. It is sheer magic. Both a re-affirmation of life, of finding the beauty in the littlest things. It’s as if our entire day has a bookend of amazing art on either end. To ignore it, to not take the few minutes it exists and stare at it as if you are four years old again and the world is made of magic is foolish.

If I don’t take the time to do witness the beauty that is the sunrise and sunset, my day feels empty. The colours fade so quickly, the magic even faster. Sometimes I may sleep through the sunrise (who doesn’t on occasion), but on those days, I am sure to take in the state of the sky before I do anything else – even reach for my phone. The sky is the first thing I focus on when my eyes wake in the morning. It’s also the last thing I look at before I go to bed – I look for stars, for the moon, for clouds… and now that I am sleeping with the blinds opened, if I wake in the middle of the night, I get to see the moon as it drifts through the onyx sky.

Do yourself a favour this next week. Take the time to look up at the sky with the wonder of a child who hasn’t been jaded by the responsibilities of a fast-paced world. Breathe in the artistry and beauty right in front of you. Drink it in, commit it to memory, to your heart. For if you carry beauty in your heart, there won’t be room for much else.

A Few Ramblings About Love

When I was younger I foolishly believed in fairy tales, in the happy every after. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, animals sing, dwarfs get all ga ga, and well, happily ever after, right? Wrong.

In between, there’s housework, there is the daily mundane, the impossibly difficult discussions, the little things, the actual WORK required to make the happily ever after happen. You know, stuff which doesn’t fit neatly into a Disney movie and is over-dramatized in their sitcoms accented with a cheesy laugh reel.

Life isn’t some sitcom. It’s not a Disney fairy tale either. It is somewhere in between, it is not easy, and it requires work. Most of all, it requires intimacy, patience, trust, and the willingness to talk the hard stuff through without jumping to conclusions. It means listening instead of deciding what you’re going to say next. A partnership, a marriage.. it’s not about the day you say “I do”…it’s about all the days after.

The next time you see a couple who appears to have it all together, remind yourself you are only seeing a slice of their life. Do not compare yourself or your relationship to what they have. I used this example a few weeks ago – the story of the ugly duckling – he started out completely different from his siblings but ended up being the most beautiful and graceful creature of them all. It is also a perfect analogy for relationships. In my experience, people who have been through a lot together (and survived) have the strongest relationships.

Over the past few years through my work as a peer support advocate for women and families struggling with Perinatal Mood Disorders, I have had the deep honor of getting to peek behind the curtain of some of the most amazing people I have ever “met”. I say “met” with quotations because most of them I have only had the pleasure of talking to on through a digital medium.

This work, this advocacy, has not only allowed me to enable others to move forward with their lives through the boulder of Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders but it has also taught me quite a bit about love and relationships. You see, when you are supporting a family through a PMAD episode, you have to be aware of everything going on in their life because every little thing matters. Is she getting enough support at home? Is he sleeping okay? Does he have support too? How’s work going? Are the in-laws a source of stress? Are they communicating? Are they sharing the care responsibilities? Are they taking time for each other as a couple? There are a lot of little nuances which can add up to an explanation of why she’s had a bad week or why he seems a little snippy. These are the things which must be teased out to empower a couple to communicate and move past the potholes before they become sinkholes.

In no particular order, the following are things I believe empower a strong and successful relationship. They are things I strive to do in my current relationship and don’t ever intend to stop doing:

1) Listen. I don’t mean nod your head and “uh huh” at every little thing your partner says. No. I mean actually listen. Follow the conversation, ask questions, repeat things back. Validate their feelings, their concerns, make them heard. You would expect the same from them, yes? Everyone wants to be heard, deserves to be heard and this is particularly true with your partner.

2) Check in with your partner on a daily basis. Sure, ask them how their day went but dive deeper and ask pertinent questions beyond the surface. Get them talking abut their interests or offer to listen as they vent a problem they’re having at work.

3) Hold hands just because. Holding hands has got to be one of the most intimate things you can do with a person. I’m serious! It’s a quiet yet sweet way to let them know you care and you want to be near them. I adore holding hands and it means the world to me to be able to just sit and hold hands as we watch TV.

4) Discuss serious issues like adults. I don’t mean rage at each other, yelling and screaming. I mean sit down, and in a calm, rational voice, state your side of the situation, and then listen to your partner state his side of the decision. Sometimes you may need to wait until you both calm down. Work together instead of against each other to solve problems. You are both on the same team, here. I realize this is easier said than done but when both of you are capable of this it truly is a beautiful thing, trust me. (this is where checking in with each other comes in handy because there are less likely to be blow ups if you are actually communicating to begin with!)

5) Go on a date with each other. It doesn’t have to be ritzy, heck, it doesn’t even have to qualify as a “date”. Just spending time alone, the two of you, is great. You may have kids now but that doesn’t mean you are *just* a mom & dad. You are still the people you were when you fell in love. Nurture that, celebrate it, and don’t ever lose sight of yourselves as a happy, giddy couple madly in love with each other.

6) Surprise each other with little romantic gestures. These things are cheesy but they work. Texts, notes in work bags, mailed cards. I had to travel last summer and I left a well-planned scavenger hunt for my boyfriend at our condo while I was gone. All the clues were in a coupon holder with the dates written on the outside of the envelope. I had a blast planning it and he enjoyed all the little mementos. It really is the little things which matter in the long run.

7) Laugh together, often. Laughter really is the best medicine and if you can’t be utterly ridiculous with the one you’re with? Then you’re in trouble. It’s good for the heart, the soul, the abs, and your relationship.

8) Try new things together. Chances are you’ll both be nervous but it’ll be a bonding experience and hopefully one you’ll never forget. Just make sure you wear all the proper safety gear if you decide to leap out of a plane.

9) Give each other your own space. Know who you are and respect the person your partner is by allowing him/her to indulge in his/her interests without guilt. There is the potential for abuse of this (ie, someone hogging all the alone time and not allowing their partner to have their fair share). Love should never demand someone change their interests or who they really are just to be accepted. Love is about finding someone who is amazing and accepting them for WHO THEY ARE right then and there, not the person you plan on molding them to be.

10) Love with wild abandon. There’s no other way to love the person you are with than deeply. Love so hard your heart hurts and aches and you can’t wait to jump into their arms when they get home from work. Fall in love with them all over again every day for no reason at all than the fact that they love you right back.

Am I saying that if you do all of these things you’ll have the perfect relationship? No. Because not all of us are built the same and some of us need different things from a relationship. But for me? This is it. This is my list. Some of it may work for you, the whole thing possibly.

Underlying all of this, however, is the definitive need to communicate because without communicating, you may as well build a house without a foundation in the Everglades and just wait for the whole thing to sink beneath the swamp. And that’s not getting you anywhere but in a gator’s belly.

My Happy Place

The cool breeze skimmed over the dark water, tracing the ripples all the way to the rocky shore where it broke into pieces and scattered into the forest just over the pine-needle laden floor. The tree branches above danced as the wind wound its way upward in a tango toward the star speckled sky.

She sighed deeply, closed her eyes, and inhaled. The frogs and crickets chirped and sang, echoing back and forth across the dark liquid expanse. The fire flickered behind her. This peace, this quiet, this was exactly what she needed.

The night, especially the night in the middle of nowhere, hugged her closer than any other creature on the planet. It leaped into her heart and squeezed her from the inside out. This, this simplistic, primal, natural gorgeous place was where her soul was formed. She ran her hands through the pine-needle covered dirt beside her and let the dirt sift through her fingers.

Hugging her brown cable sweater a little closer, she shivered in the dark. Time to go sit next to the fire, she thought. Lingering just a little longer, she stared into the sky, briefly identifying a few constellations here and there. She’d been away too long and could only identify a basic few – Orion, the Big Dipper, and The Little Dipper. In a galaxy far far away, a long time ago, she could identify several more but that knowledge had been left behind in the distant past, buried. She sighed, slowly stood, and walked carefully back to the fire pit.

The flames danced rhythmically with the gentle breeze, sparks flying here and there. The crackles and pops served as the percussion as the frogs and crickets sang along in a falsetto. Oh, how she had truly missed camping.

When she was a child, her parents went camping quite a bit. Her favourite place to camp as a kid was at the beach. There was nothing like sitting next to a campfire with the roar of the ocean behind you and the cool sand behind your toes. It’s quite something to realize the sand isn’t always wont to burn the bottom of your feet off. And s’mores on the beach – oh my goodness. That’s a whole ‘nother level of heaven right there.

But this – the mustiness of the trees, the soothing constant lap of the lake as it played endlessly with the breeze which frolicked just above it, the echoing of the various creature calls – this, this was camping – this was heaven. Solace. Solitude. Peace.

She sat there, book in hand, reading, until the flames flickered one last time as they sank deep into the dirt to sleep for the night and await rekindling in the morning. Unzipping her tent, she climbed in, took off her boots, and climbed into the sleeping bag. As she drifted off to sleep, the lake whispered a lullaby as the breeze intensified, helping the trees cradle the night just above her.

Everyone has a happy place in their head, a place to which they escape when things get tough. If you don’t, you should. I’ve just described mine to you. Tell me about yours. Where is your happy place? What does it look like? How does it make you feel?

Everything in Life Is Writable

Sylvia Plath Quote

Everything in life is writable about, according to Sylvia Plath. Everything. Every breath you take, every move you make, wait… that’s…not…I’ve digressed.

Today was held such promise but it ended up as a day where I did not get much accomplished beyond making dough in the kitchen. Sure, I eventually put sauce, pepperoni, and cheese on one of the doughs (mmmm.. homemade pizza, anyone?) but aside from that, I may have read a grand total of 10-15 pages in one of my research books and taken a whopping half-page of notes.

My brain is a bit fried from the heavier stuff earlier this week. Switching gears from intense analytical reading to simple comprehension is a bit like taking an F1 driver out of his race car and telling him to drive Monaco in a Flinstone-mobile. He’s gonna wonder where the hell the knobs and gears are, right?

That’s the catch with the writing lifestyle, I suppose. Switching gears all the time. The book I envision is comprised of a range of subjects. Some of the reading I am doing is just for background purposes as I hate discussing anything unless I fully understand it. Writing a book means I damn well better be able to comprehend what I am discussing. So, reading it is. A lot of reading. Balancing that reading is proving to be tricky, however. What is even trickier is balancing the reading/researching/note-taking with blogging. Oh, and chat. Mondays are crazy around here. Chat, worksheet development (which I think I am going to move up to the weekends, actually, to get a jump start!), and then advocacy. Phew.

I promise I am still taking good care of myself. I practice what I preach.

The quote I started with – about how everything in life is writable about – it caught my eye because it is important for me to remember that just now. At the beginning of the year, I promised a more intimate view into ME this next year. I realized over the past year that one of the reasons I stopped writing was because frankly, I lost sight of who I was as a woman, as a writer, as a blogger in my own space. Sure, it was mine, but I felt like a stranger in my own home. I was no longer who I was when I started the blog. Should I continue? Should I rebrand? (I still struggle with rebranding – I may do that one of these days yet, that one is still up in the air).

Turns out that I just needed to sit down, crack my knuckles, and remind myself that yes, everything in life IS writable about – it’s just a question of having the guts to do so, as Sylvia says. I still get to choose what I share with the public at large, but there is nothing to writing – all you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed, according to Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway also claims one should write drunk and edit sober, solid advice if you ask me, actually. Nothing quite like really lowering your inhibitions and then sitting down at a typewriter to bleed. Of course, your blood might be tinged with scotch or whisky. But a bit of proper editing and you’ll be good to go, right?

A blogger I met when I first arrived on Twitter wrote these hilarious posts about lessons she learned over the past week. Sadly, I don’t read her blog much any more but really need to get back into the habit because she’s a hilarious woman. In the vein of “everything in life is writable” and the spirit of lessons I’ve learned this past week, here is a short list of things I’ve learned this past week (some the hard way):

1) Never, ever, ever, EVER grab a hot glass casserole dish without oven mitts protecting your hands. Because if you do? You sit down on the floor, grab a beer, take a long gulp whilst staring dumbfounded at the oven:

Epic Dinner Fail

Lessons learned: Wear oven mitts. Don’t make complicated meals when you’ve had less than five hours of sleep. Inadequacy and failure taste delicious when they take the form of sushi.

2) There is such a thing as too much damn snow. I lived in the deep south for nearly two decades. Despite growing up in Jersey and spending my teen years in the mid-Atlantic, I haven’t seen the white stuff for a long time so I am still like a little kid whenever it crops up. Now that I am back in the Northeast, it’s been fabulous to see all the snow. Until the past month where it has managed to snow no less than a zillion times every damn week. Right now, we have about eight inches of the crap on the ground. It’s topped with a coating of a quarter of an inch of ice. It’s gorgeous, yes. But I NEED SPRING.

Lesson learn(ing): Patience, grasshopper. Lots and lots of patience. Also, lots of cruising Flickr for pictures of beaches, spring flowers, and sunshine.

3) My handwriting sucks. I am ascribing to the Luddite method of note-taking for my book. I bought a lovely 400 page journal and scribble in it, complete with references and everything as I take notes, write thoughts, etc. When I physically write something down, I am more likely to remember it than if I type it into a computer or into my phone. Once I fling it into the ether, it is also flung far, far away from my head. Don’t even think about suggesting Evernote. I’m already scheming ways to print out PDF’s of documents I desperately need to read because yes, I don’t want to read them online. I want to feel dead trees in my grubby non-environmental friendly hands. Because dammit, it’s just not a book unless trees have shed blood for it. Remember Hemingway? We’re bleeding here as authors – and I fully expect the trees to sacrifice too. And no, I do not care how politically incorrect this makes me – I am a FIRM believer in REAL BOOKS. MADE OF DEAD TREES.

Lesson learned: Practice my handwriting whenever I get a chance. It’s already improving. I can *almost* read it when I go back over my notes now. It’s either practice or apply to med school.

4) Just because a cat looks comfy and happy doesn’t mean they want you to pet them. No, sometimes? That means they’re stalking your hand, waiting for it to wave just in reach of their very sharp teeth.

Lesson Learned: Kick the cat off the damn couch if I’m typing. Or eating. Or moving my hands in any way. Because OW.

5) Breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day. I suck at eating breakfast when I am tired. Which, frankly, is most mornings. So I end up making myself coffee, taking my meds, fixing an English Muffin (this morning, it was a toaster strudel), with the intent of fixing myself some sort of protein once I’ve dragged myself out of the zombiesque state I tend to live in for the first few hours after opening my eyes. Thing is, lunchtime hits before I know it and OOPS. There goes breakfast. I eat light for lunch too because I got used to skipping it as well (back when I was eating a bigger breakfast) so then I want to eat ALL THE THINGS by dinner. If I eat ALL the things at dinner (and after dinner), I wake up with heartburn. I don’t want to wake up with heartburn so I need to get breakfast. We ordered a toaster this past week that has a little egg cooker attached to it so I am hoping this will enable me to eat a healthier breakfast. I have no excuse to not cook an egg along with my muffin now. NONE.

Lesson learned: Eat breakfast to avoid heartburn. Because heartburn wakes me up at 330 and then I don’t get any sleep and then, well – see item #1.

There you have it folks, my week in a nutshell.

Here’s to a better week, better lessons, less bleeding (or is that more, because I want to write? I dunno!), and DEAD TREES! YAWP!